Archive for the ‘Top 5 Tuesday’ Category

Top 5 Tuesday

January 13, 2009
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Top 5 Tuesday

January 13, 2009

Top 5 Tuesday

January 7, 2009

I tackled perhaps my most difficult Top 5 this week. Oh the lists I made, the qualities I considered, the overwhelming pros and few cons, the wealth of options to revisit…Yes, this week I have selected my Top 5 restaurants. I was inspired by a random blog that I stumbled across this week-I wanted to rush right out and sample the delectable dishes the author mentioned. Unfortunately, I do not live in the Houston area. Oh well, on to the next best thing-writing about my own favorites.

As you can imagine, it takes some time to whittle down a top 5 list for restaurants, particularly for someone like me, who loves food and finishes breakfast only to dream about lunch. I mean, I could make top 5 lists for every meal of the day, for every genre of food, for all my favorite regional cuisines, for every restaurant feature…it could take years! I eventually had to settle for this select few. As you’ll notice, with the exception of one, they’re all found in my wonderful home state of Texas. That’s just where the best food is located. I should know, I have lived in a veritable food capital of the world, New York City, and I am a mere hour’s drive away from yet another food mecca, San Francisco. My opinion should be highly valued! Now for the list:

5. Palma, New York City. My fifth choice was particularly thorny. I was very confident about my top 4, but it took a while to figure out, among many, which eating establishment truly deserved the last spot. I finally chose Palma, not so much because of the wonderful food, but because of all the happy memories it evokes. My husband and I found Palma on a lazy Indian summer afternoon. It was just a street over from his apartment in the West Village, but as is usual when faced with a plethora of choices for eating out in New York, it had heretofore been easy to miss. It’s a tiny place, with a beautiful postage-stamp sized garden in the back (incidentally, I almost always ate at Palma during the colder months, and never actually got to enjoy the garden). The sparse décor is actually quite nice; the cream-colored walls are nicely softened by luminarias and the few tables, while fairly close together, still allow for intimate, romantic dinners. We always ordered the fried calamari to start-it comes with a generous sprinkling of parsley and several large lemon slices. We always had to ask for a bowl of marinara for dipping, because the waiters inevitably insisted the calamari was so pure and delicious, it didn’t need any sauce. Our main course was usually one of the pasta dishes, bolognese or gnocchi-they were always rich and decadent, arriving at our table in steaming bowls. On many a wintry night, we could be found indulging in a meal, and we invited many of our friends. In fact, the husband and I had starring roles in the place cards for a wedding we attended out in the wine country on Long Island. The couple, our dear friends, had a wine-based story for each table. Our table was named after a wine they had enjoyed at Palma, and we were mentioned in the little story attached to the table card. New York representation on the list!

4. The County Line, Austin, TX. Now, if you had asked me how high BBQ was on my list of favorite foods before I moved to Austin, I might not have seemed too enthusiastic. Besides home-cooked brisket and the amazing sandwiches at Lum’s, a hidden gem in Junction, TX, I’ve never really felt much passion towards BBQ. I don’t even like ribs. My opinion was changed the very first time I stepped out onto the riverfront deck at The County Line. It’s usually packed, no matter what time you go, but it’s pretty much impossible to mind waiting out on the deck, observing the turtles swimming in the cool green water and families tooling by in small boats. Once you’re finally seated, you can dive into a basket of warm homemade wheat bread, made even better with the addition of honey butter. I usually ordered a brisket platter, which comes with a generous portion of thickly sliced, tender brisket, and spicy beans. Delicious. My husband thinks it’s the best barbecue he’s ever had, and he always ordered a giant combination platter with all sorts of barbecued items, sausage, ribs, brisket, turkey…they’re all good.

3. Chuy’s, Austin, TX. Chuy’s is an eclectic, funky local chain restaurant (and by chain, I mean it has a few locations in Austin, and I believe one in San Antonio-it’s no On the Border!). It has the absolute best Mexican food, excepting the tiny hole-in-the-wall mom-and-pop establishments from home. Again, its popularity ensures that it will always be crammed full of people, but you don’t even think about it, because you can enjoy drinks and the self-service chips and salsa bar-crisp, perfectly salted tortilla chips and divinely spicy salsa.. One of the best things about Chuy’s is the inclusion of New Mexico green hatch chiles in many of its menu items. It’s a flavor I love and grew up with, but not all that common to find. I usually order the oddly named “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom”, chicken and cheese enchiladas with roasted green chile sauce. I always struggle to finish the meal, but every bite is precious, so I manage!

2. Kincaid’s, Fort Worth, TX. Whenever my mom and I talk about the one food that is most satisfying and crave-able, she inevitably mentions a good, old-fashioned hamburger. I’m always scanning through various dishes in my mind, like steak, salmon, Mexican food, a hot bowl of pasta, but Mom always knows what she wants! She says there is nothing like a good hamburger, and I’m inclined to agree. No hamburger could hit the spot more than the homestyle burger from Kincaid’s, housed in an old grocery. There is nothing fancy about the place, but it’s undeniably charming, retaining the old painted wooden shelves from the days when it was a real grocery. I always order a ¼ lb. burger with a side of onion rings-they’re perfectly crispy, and light on the batter, so not too heavy. A simple meal, but a great one.

1. Shady Grove, Austin, TX. Yes, I saved the best for last. My husband and I lived in Austin for almost a year before we experienced the wonder that is Shady Grove. It’s located just down the road from Barton Springs, the natural spring-fed pool that Austinites love to immerse themselves in. I could actually devote a post to the bliss of Barton Springs-there is nothing like a dive into the clean, cold water on a 90 degree Texas afternoon! Anyway, back to Shady Grove. It has a great outdoor patio surrounded by an old-fashioned wooded fence. There’s a small stage for live music on Thursdays and colored lights dangling from the trees. Bathrooms are cutely located in a gleaming silver Airstream trailer parked conveniently next to the outdoor bar. All in all, very aesthetically pleasing. And I haven’t even gotten to the food! I’m a bit ashamed to give Shady Grove the number one spot considering I’ve only actually eaten two of their dishes. The truth is, I had the tortilla-crusted catfish the first time, because I can’t resist any sort of “crusted” fish. It was really delicious, but it apparently didn’t hold a candle to my husband’s meal. He had been given a little inside secret from the waiter-the green chile black bean burrito can be made with the addition of brisket. Promptly, he ordered the burrito, which truth be told, is never what jumps out at me when I scour menus. After that first bite, I was a complete convert. Every time I’ve returned to Shady Grove, I’ve ordered the same burrito, and every bite is as incredible as that first one. That combined with the ambiance is why my “keep Austin weird” shirt is from Shady Grove, and why it’s my number 1.

I’m already working on next week’s Top 5. Pretty excited about it. Oh, it’s so wonderful to be able to create these memorable lists for myself, even if I’m probably the only one that revisits them! That’s just one of the joys of having one’s own blog!

Top 5 Tuesday

January 7, 2009

I tackled perhaps my most difficult Top 5 this week. Oh the lists I made, the qualities I considered, the overwhelming pros and few cons, the wealth of options to revisit…Yes, this week I have selected my Top 5 restaurants. I was inspired by a random blog that I stumbled across this week-I wanted to rush right out and sample the delectable dishes the author mentioned. Unfortunately, I do not live in the Houston area. Oh well, on to the next best thing-writing about my own favorites.

As you can imagine, it takes some time to whittle down a top 5 list for restaurants, particularly for someone like me, who loves food and finishes breakfast only to dream about lunch. I mean, I could make top 5 lists for every meal of the day, for every genre of food, for all my favorite regional cuisines, for every restaurant feature…it could take years! I eventually had to settle for this select few. As you’ll notice, with the exception of one, they’re all found in my wonderful home state of Texas. That’s just where the best food is located. I should know, I have lived in a veritable food capital of the world, New York City, and I am a mere hour’s drive away from yet another food mecca, San Francisco. My opinion should be highly valued! Now for the list:

5. Palma, New York City. My fifth choice was particularly thorny. I was very confident about my top 4, but it took a while to figure out, among many, which eating establishment truly deserved the last spot. I finally chose Palma, not so much because of the wonderful food, but because of all the happy memories it evokes. My husband and I found Palma on a lazy Indian summer afternoon. It was just a street over from his apartment in the West Village, but as is usual when faced with a plethora of choices for eating out in New York, it had heretofore been easy to miss. It’s a tiny place, with a beautiful postage-stamp sized garden in the back (incidentally, I almost always ate at Palma during the colder months, and never actually got to enjoy the garden). The sparse décor is actually quite nice; the cream-colored walls are nicely softened by luminarias and the few tables, while fairly close together, still allow for intimate, romantic dinners. We always ordered the fried calamari to start-it comes with a generous sprinkling of parsley and several large lemon slices. We always had to ask for a bowl of marinara for dipping, because the waiters inevitably insisted the calamari was so pure and delicious, it didn’t need any sauce. Our main course was usually one of the pasta dishes, bolognese or gnocchi-they were always rich and decadent, arriving at our table in steaming bowls. On many a wintry night, we could be found indulging in a meal, and we invited many of our friends. In fact, the husband and I had starring roles in the place cards for a wedding we attended out in the wine country on Long Island. The couple, our dear friends, had a wine-based story for each table. Our table was named after a wine they had enjoyed at Palma, and we were mentioned in the little story attached to the table card. New York representation on the list!

4. The County Line, Austin, TX. Now, if you had asked me how high BBQ was on my list of favorite foods before I moved to Austin, I might not have seemed too enthusiastic. Besides home-cooked brisket and the amazing sandwiches at Lum’s, a hidden gem in Junction, TX, I’ve never really felt much passion towards BBQ. I don’t even like ribs. My opinion was changed the very first time I stepped out onto the riverfront deck at The County Line. It’s usually packed, no matter what time you go, but it’s pretty much impossible to mind waiting out on the deck, observing the turtles swimming in the cool green water and families tooling by in small boats. Once you’re finally seated, you can dive into a basket of warm homemade wheat bread, made even better with the addition of honey butter. I usually ordered a brisket platter, which comes with a generous portion of thickly sliced, tender brisket, and spicy beans. Delicious. My husband thinks it’s the best barbecue he’s ever had, and he always ordered a giant combination platter with all sorts of barbecued items, sausage, ribs, brisket, turkey…they’re all good.

3. Chuy’s, Austin, TX. Chuy’s is an eclectic, funky local chain restaurant (and by chain, I mean it has a few locations in Austin, and I believe one in San Antonio-it’s no On the Border!). It has the absolute best Mexican food, excepting the tiny hole-in-the-wall mom-and-pop establishments from home. Again, its popularity ensures that it will always be crammed full of people, but you don’t even think about it, because you can enjoy drinks and the self-service chips and salsa bar-crisp, perfectly salted tortilla chips and divinely spicy salsa.. One of the best things about Chuy’s is the inclusion of New Mexico green hatch chiles in many of its menu items. It’s a flavor I love and grew up with, but not all that common to find. I usually order the oddly named “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom”, chicken and cheese enchiladas with roasted green chile sauce. I always struggle to finish the meal, but every bite is precious, so I manage!

2. Kincaid’s, Fort Worth, TX. Whenever my mom and I talk about the one food that is most satisfying and crave-able, she inevitably mentions a good, old-fashioned hamburger. I’m always scanning through various dishes in my mind, like steak, salmon, Mexican food, a hot bowl of pasta, but Mom always knows what she wants! She says there is nothing like a good hamburger, and I’m inclined to agree. No hamburger could hit the spot more than the homestyle burger from Kincaid’s, housed in an old grocery. There is nothing fancy about the place, but it’s undeniably charming, retaining the old painted wooden shelves from the days when it was a real grocery. I always order a ¼ lb. burger with a side of onion rings-they’re perfectly crispy, and light on the batter, so not too heavy. A simple meal, but a great one.

1. Shady Grove, Austin, TX. Yes, I saved the best for last. My husband and I lived in Austin for almost a year before we experienced the wonder that is Shady Grove. It’s located just down the road from Barton Springs, the natural spring-fed pool that Austinites love to immerse themselves in. I could actually devote a post to the bliss of Barton Springs-there is nothing like a dive into the clean, cold water on a 90 degree Texas afternoon! Anyway, back to Shady Grove. It has a great outdoor patio surrounded by an old-fashioned wooded fence. There’s a small stage for live music on Thursdays and colored lights dangling from the trees. Bathrooms are cutely located in a gleaming silver Airstream trailer parked conveniently next to the outdoor bar. All in all, very aesthetically pleasing. And I haven’t even gotten to the food! I’m a bit ashamed to give Shady Grove the number one spot considering I’ve only actually eaten two of their dishes. The truth is, I had the tortilla-crusted catfish the first time, because I can’t resist any sort of “crusted” fish. It was really delicious, but it apparently didn’t hold a candle to my husband’s meal. He had been given a little inside secret from the waiter-the green chile black bean burrito can be made with the addition of brisket. Promptly, he ordered the burrito, which truth be told, is never what jumps out at me when I scour menus. After that first bite, I was a complete convert. Every time I’ve returned to Shady Grove, I’ve ordered the same burrito, and every bite is as incredible as that first one. That combined with the ambiance is why my “keep Austin weird” shirt is from Shady Grove, and why it’s my number 1.

I’m already working on next week’s Top 5. Pretty excited about it. Oh, it’s so wonderful to be able to create these memorable lists for myself, even if I’m probably the only one that revisits them! That’s just one of the joys of having one’s own blog!

As it turns out, Top 5 THURSDAY (holiday edition)

January 1, 2009

**Yes, I failed to post my weekly Top 5 until today. This just goes to show you our dependency on wireless connections.

I can’t believe this is happening! It’s Top 5 Tuesday, and I am STRUGGLING to come up with an interesting list. I have to admit not only to feeling a bit uninspired, but also to an intense feeling of inadequacy-many of my favorite blogs have just been so good lately! The goings-on of my mind seem so trivial! Granted, I am on Christmas vacation. There is usually not a whole lot accomplished during Christmas vacation. It’s for relaxing, after all. I say this knowing that I probably have more than my fair share of relaxing time, being semi-retired and everything.

I ran my final and only idea for Top 5 Tuesday by my loving siblings, but they both strongly objected. For some unknown reason, they both felt that talking about my top 5 holiday treats was ridiculous and lame. My brother informed me that he wouldn’t find a blog interesting that discussed such things. My sister did not approve of my final list. Not that we didn’t have a great time laughing, dissecting my ideas, and getting new ones for the future because we certainly did. I decided to write about my holiday favorites anyway, despite the protests, and mostly because while writing about the food that I enjoy is part of my original purpose for my blog, it often evokes warm, comforting feelings of familial bliss and treasured memories. While the five holiday treats that I include here are not necessarily elaborate or fancy, they are still the things that I remember indulging in, specifically around the holidays.

5. Christmas Morning Breakfast. I can see how this might be confusing-breakfast is a MEAL, not a treat. What a way to start such a non-original top 5! All I can say is that my favorite part of Christmas with my family is always our Christmas morning breakfast. It’s the same every year. As Frances the badger would say about routine and predictable favorite foods, (hers being bread and jam-see previous post relating to children’s books), “I always know what I’m getting, and I’m always pleased.” We all roll out of bed, usually around 7:30 or 8:00-it’s grown increasingly later through the years as the youngest in the family have matured past the age of frantically waiting in nervous anticipation to see what Santa brought. After the gift-opening, we all pile our plates with delicious scrambled eggs, fresh biscuits, and spicy sausage (patties, not links!). Cups of steaming coffee or hot chocolate are passed around. I usually pour a decent-sized pool of syrup onto my plate, into which I swirl my bites of sausage. Yes, it’s a simple breakfast. But there is something so wonderful about crowding around the tiny kitchen table in my grandparents’ house or having to seek out a spot amongst the remnants of our wrapping paper and boxes, balancing plates precariously on laps and hoping that the large silver urn of coffee will be constantly replenished. I absolutely love it.

4. Memaw’s Rolls. Memaw is my grandmother, as you might have guessed, from the aforementioned Christmas morning tradition. She is truly the most wonderful and amazing grandmother, like an angel on earth. That may sound trite, but it’s just really the best way to describe her. An angel on earth. As though heaven is where she has belonged all along. She works tirelessly to make Christmas a special time for everyone, taking on far too many tasks, including the making of her famously delicious rolls. Yes, I know that I use the word “delicious” frequently in my posts. It must be my favorite word. These rolls, a basic yeast roll recipe, feel light, but taste buttery and rich. Of course, they’re best piping hot and slathered with butter. The boys usually devour at least 2-3 rolls per meal, so you can imagine what a tremendous job it is to provide enough rolls for 18 people. Someday, I’ll have to attempt them myself, but I feel they probably won’t ever be quite as good as Memaw’s.

3. Queso. Again, I am completely aware of the simplicity of this dish. Every restaurant has a version, there are millions of recipes, in every cookbook for it. All kinds of cheese and mix-ins have been employed, I’m sure. I must admit, the best, and my favorite, queso is my mom’s, and while we have had it on other occasions (besides Christmas), we ALWAYS have it over the holidays, usually on Christmas Eve to accompany a fairly light meal of roast beef and ham sandwiches. My family has always eaten quite a bit of Mexican food-enchiladas, chile relleno casserole (definitely worth a post someday), and concoctions of meat, chiles, and potatoes were frequently on our menu-so we like everything pretty spicy. My mom’s queso is no exception-it’s full of finely chopped green chiles and tomatoes. I like it better that way, spicier instead of cheesy.

2. Chocolate Praline Bars. I’m including the recipe for this sinfully wonderful dessert. See, this post isn’t completely without substance! I’m sharing a recipe! My mom found it in a Christmas cookbook many years ago, and the bars are trooped out every year at holiday parties or just for us to devour when we’re home. She modified the recipe, coming up with the brilliant idea of the layer of chocolate chips herself. Thus, I’ve never tried the original quick praline bars, because they’ve always been covered in chocolate. Which is as they should be. It’s a very simple dessert, and can easily be doubled. I would suggest you run, not walk, to your kitchen to make these, IMMEDIATELY.

24 graham cracker squares, or enough to cover the bottom of your pan in a single layer
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup butter
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup chopped pecans
chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350. Arrange graham crackers in SINGLE layer in ungreased pan (8 x 8). Heat brown sugar and butter to boiling; boil and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Pour over crackers; spread evenly. Sprinkle with pecans. Bake until bubbly, 8-10 minutes. Spread chocolate chips generously over the top. Cover pan with foil; let sit for 3-4 minutes. Uncover, spread melted chocolate chips evenly over surface with a knife (it should be a thick layer). Place cookies in the refrigerator or freezer, covered.

1. Viscochos/Bizcochos. I wish that I had a picture to capture the loveliness of these precious little Mexican wedding cookies, flavored with anise. They’re very delicate, usually in an unusual shape, like stars or hearts, and absolutely doused in cinnamon sugar. Now, if you were to come across a recipe for bizcochos, you might blanch from the inclusion of lard in the recipe. Keep in mind that these are holiday treats-they are all unhealthy, rich, and calorie-laden. The lard is a crucial ingredient-it gives the cookies that “melt-in-your-mouth” quality. My mother attempted to make them once, without the lard, which resulted in a completely ordinary cinnamon cookie. Typically, we’ve had to find a friend or acquaintance who makes them at home, and then buy several dozen for Christmas or any other special event. You won’t find them in stores, in other words. My mom usually arranged to have them for Christmas when I came home from college, and I insisted on having platters of them at each table for my wedding. I would actually rather eat bizcochos than wedding cake (unless my sister made the cake, of course) or any other dessert for that matter. Tiny bites of heaven-that’s how I would describe them. Interestingly enough, when I was searching for a decent picture to include, I came across this article from the New York Times. Not only did the recipes look great (and there is one for bizcochos!), I appreciated reading about El Paso, the closest city to my hometown (and by close, I mean SEVERAL hours drive).

This wraps up my holiday edition of Top 5 Tuesday-make sure to eat some black-eyed peas today! Happy New Year!

Top 5 Tuesday

December 23, 2008

I thought I’d go a different direction for Top 5 Tuesday this week, just in an effort to show to my loyal (2-3) readers that I’m not one-dimensional, and I actually do have interests beyond television, Rachael Ray, and the Twilight saga. Oops, I did it again! Wrote about Twilight in yet another post!

This week’s list is devoted to my favorite childhood picture books. I was fortunate and blessed to grow up with a librarian mother who loves books and a father who loves to read them. From a very young age, I was absolutely surrounded with books, and truth be told, I found them more interesting than any toy or game. I had a trusty Fisher-Price tape player, and my first experiences with Disney movies were the books-on-tape versions-I’m still a little frightened of Sleeping Beauty‘s Maleficent and the terrifying hunter from The Fox and the Hound! Nothing could be better for preparation for reading than being immersed in books, and my parents did a great job by ensuring they were a crucial element in my childhood. I still have many of my favorites, and I’ve often used them in school or even just to reread for a trip down memory lane. I can’t wait for the day I’m able to read them to my own children. Now, with no further adieu, I present my (very respectable and noteworthy) list of favorite picture books.

5. Madeline, by Ludwig Bemelmans. Now this particular title is probably on many best-loved children’s books list, so I know it’s not that unique. It’s a really simple, unforgettable story, however. Who can forget the twelve little girls waking up in the night to poor Madeline’s appendicitis? On one of my first visits to New York City, I used my copy of City Secrets to find Bemelman’s Bar at the Carlyle Hotel, where there are murals painted by Bemelmans encircling the dark wooded seats. It brought my memories of reading Madeline back in a flash.

4. Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey. My mother might be surprised to see this classic on my list, because I don’t think we even owned a copy at home. What I do vividly remember is reading this book at my grandmother’s house. She had an old, faded copy (even when I was little), and I can remember wishing that the blueberries on the pages were really bright blue. I can almost hear the clinking they made in Sal’s pail.

3. A Baby Sister for Frances, by Russell and Lillian Hoban. At some point in the future, I should probably make a Top 5 list of what I’ve learned from Frances. She is an incorrigible badger, with an amazing mother, who is able to gently and subtly teach her the way to be. I had a great tape of a collection of Frances stories, read by Glynis Johns, and we all listened to them over and over. I was thrilled to find a CD version, although I still have my original, well-worn cassette tape. All of the Frances books are wonderful, but this one, which touches upon sibling rivalry and the jealousy felt when a new baby comes along, is both touching and funny. “Things are not very good around here anymore…”

2. Patrick Eats His Dinner, by Geoffrey Hayes. Of all the books read to me as a child, this series stands out more than any others. Patrick Brown is a precocious little bear, always getting into scrapes and attempting to bend his mother’s will. There’s precious little dialogue on each page, but my dad really made it count when he read these stories to me. In this particular one, Patrick is forced to eat peas for dinner, much to his digust, before he is able to eat dessert. He sings a little song to himself as he mashes ketchup, honey, and various other condiments in the peas to hide the taste, and my dad came up with his very own tune. Even now, I can sing “Little green balls of mushy poison, little green balls of mushy poison…” and my dad will smile and remember. If you’ll notice, I had to take a photo of the book, because it is out of print and I wasn’t able to find a single image online. Two of the other Patrick books I own are fetching upwards of $250 from used booksellers, but you won’t ever see me letting them go!

1. Ferdinand, by Munro Leaf. I don’t think my mother would be surprised with my number 1 choice-it was her favorite, I think, to read to me when I was little. Ferdinand is a young bull in Spain, raised by a loving mother, and sadly, eventually destined to bull-fighting. All he really wants to do, however, is sit and smell the flowers. Another book with not much dialogue, it’s really very good for reading to a young child. The black and white pictures of Ferdinand sitting alone in the huge fighting ring, taking in the scent of the flowers bedecking the ladies’ hair, are really wonderful. It is a sweet, special book, one that I would recommend to anyone to page through, young or old.

I’m not sure how frequently I’ll be able to blog during the holiday, but I’m sure that will be true of most of us terribly distracted by our blogs. I’m just going to enjoy taking in all of the things that I love about Christmas, the food, the family, the relaxing… I am trying to develop a list of New Year’s resolutions in my mind-don’t think I’ll write a Top 5 on those! One of the main things I want to work on is reading more-I’m so easily distracted at home, and I would like to set aside some time every day just to read for pleasure. It would be nice if I could write critically and analytically sometimes on my blog about what I’ve read!

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Top 5 Tuesday

December 16, 2008

Yes! It’s my second Top 5 Tuesday! I’ve been eagerly anticipating it, as I came up with my second topic almost immediately after composing my first entry last week. Which means I’ve been tapping my feet and twiddling my thumbs for a whole week, waiting for today. Yes, in case anyone is wondering, I am semi-retired and don’t currently have a job. Thus, I have time for contemplating my Top 5 Tuesday ideas.

I’ve decided to make this week all about my favorite television characters. I’ll admit my shameless devotion to a select few favorite television shows! I should mention that these characters are my favorite, but not necessarily the ones who could be nominated for Golden Globes or Emmys for their performances. I would have to make another list for that-House, Don Draper, etc. Now, upon reading my list, you’ll notice that all five are male characters. They do beat out my favorite female characters, I have to say. I could always have another Top 5 Tuesday devoted to the women, I suppose. I haven’t forgotten you, Pam Beesley!

5. Coach Eric Taylor, Friday Night Lights. On a show that is inexcusably overlooked, Coach Taylor radiates dignity, subdued passion, and a quiet strength that is remarkable. I’m quite attached to the show itself because it reminds me so much of home, and while I love the action sequences and the nostalgia-inducing football games, what is equally special about the show is the way that Eric Taylor portrays the struggle and joys of being coach, husband, and father. It is CRIMINAL that he has not been recognized for his work.

4. Jim Halpert, The Office. Jim, Jim, Jim. As if I could ever create a list of favorite television characters and not include you! From season to season, the audience has been treated to the “slow burn” and development of television’s sweetest romance, witnessing Jim’s disappointment, courage, and commitment, and cheering from our couches when he finally proposed. Not only is he tv’s best boyfriend, he is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to pranking Dwight or guiding Michael in the right direction. Sweet, funny, and insightful, Jim is a huge part of what makes The Office great.

3. Tim Riggins, Friday Night Lights. Now, some would say that Tim Riggins is not worthy of a Top 5 list. He’s kind of a mess, can barely complete a homework assignment, and is probably in the earliest stages of alcoholism. Even though he’s smart enough to know he should avoid his deadbeat brother’s often illegal get-rich-quick schemes, he never fails to be there as a willing accomplice. Despite all of this, however, Riggins has the biggest heart of any of my Top 5. He jokes with the nervous freshman football star, taking him under his wing and convincing him not to break up with his “gal.” He gives his unwavering support to second string quarterback Matt Saracen, being a quiet leader without much fanfare. He helps brother Billy drown his sorrows, full well knowing Billy isn’t really together enough to be much of a provider for them. He stands between his girlfriend and her guilt-crazed father, not to humiliate him but to gently remind him that now isn’t the time to drive her further away. And, most importantly, he will go to the ends of the earth to protect, help, and save his crippled, idealistic best friend. Clearly, I could write an essay purely based on the merits of Tim Riggins! Oh, I should also mention that he is NOT AT ALL hard on the eyes. As you can see.

I’m sorry! I couldn’t help it! I just HAD to include that last one-it is a PERFECT representation of Tim Riggins!

2. Seeley Booth, Bones. Now, Bones is one of my favorite shows, largely due to Seeley Booth. He brings an emotional, human element to his partner, Dr. Temperance Brennan, who struggles to separate knowledge and science from real human connections. They have a strong chemistry, right up there with Jim and Pam, and I can only hope that the show’s writers and producers won’t “jump the shark” and give up the tension for some tawdry Grey’s Anatomy-like scenes. Booth is great not only for his strength as a talented FBI agent, but for the lightness he adds to the show. He always wears crazy belts and socks, mocks the forensics team that helps him solve cases, and enjoys turning on his rogueish charm when debating human nature with Brennan. He’s a great dancer, and his Hallowen costumes are absolute winners. I love him.

1. Jack Bauer, 24. Was there any doubt? This isn’t the first time Jack has been mentioned on my blog, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. From reading my list and noting my romantically-inclined leanings towards books and television, you might wonder why I’m so fond of someone who is so clearly an action hero. Well, a quote from A Few Good Men comes to mind. During the trial, Demi Moore’s attorney character is asked why she is defending the accused Marines, or why she likes them so much (I can’t quite remember the context of the question) and she says this: “Because they stand on a wall and say, ‘Nothing’s going to hurt you tonight…not on my watch.’ ” That is why I love Jack Bauer. He relentlessly pursues justice and truth, no matter the cost. And he does it, flawlessly. Seriously, no one even comes close-he could face a room of 50 armed men and I have no doubt he’d escape them. He has continued to careen about Los Angeles in a stolen SUV despite having stopped breathing for a few minutes, used a bomb meant to kill him to escape a locked room, ripped the ear off a terrorist that was holding him hostage, and fought off a heroin addiction that he developed on an undercover job. All in a day’s work. A modern-day superhero…

Hmmm…next Tuesday.

Top 5 Tuesday

December 9, 2008

Various blogs around the blogosphere have pithy little weekly routines, such as Wordless Wednesday-blog posts consisting only of a striking single photo-or my personal favorite, Not Me Monday. I have decided to create my own weekly routine, and I searched the dusty corners of my creative and intelligent mind to come up with an extremely interesting and catchy title: Top 5 Tuesday! Yes, I know you’re all impressed. I have decided to select a Top 5 from a variety of topics to liven up my Tuesdays. Heaven forbid a Tuesday arise where I cannot think of an appropriate Top 5.

For my first Top 5 Tuesday, I have decided to tackle an extremely difficult challenge: my Top 5 Coldplay songs. Now, I cannot write enough about this heaven-sent English band and all their gloriousness. I know I’m not the only hardcore fan around, and there are certainly lots of bands out there that are in a constant state of emulating Coldplay (Keane, anyone? Snow Patrol?), and I like them too. But no band, or individual singer, has ever touched my heart and soul the way Coldplay has. I KNOW that sounds cheesy and slightly ridiculous, but that’s just the way it is. Coldplay is like my own personal Jasper Hale-any time I’m feeling stressed or anxious, or world-weary, I can rely on the music to overwhelm me with a peaceful calm. I could continue with my praises, admiring them for poignant lyrics and grandiose crescendos, but I should proceed with my list. You should know that I am a devoted, faithful fan-not the type to show disappointment or chagrin when an album doesn’t please me. That just wouldn’t happen. I’m like this with every bit of pop culture that I fully embrace-you could tell me Season 6 of 24 was terrible and you stopped watching and I would continue to profess my adoration of Jack Bauer. Okay, here I go!

5. Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love. This was a difficult decision. I was torn between Lovers in Japan and Viva la Vida, and I felt compelled to acknowledge the most recent album, because it is undoubtedly the best, start to finish, of all their albums. I think I had to choose Lovers because I had the strongest emotional reaction to it, as compared with Viva la Vida. I love the beginning lines of the song, “Lovers, keep on the road you’re on…”, and paired with the piano solo, the song is literally to die for. I listened to it quite a bit in a rather difficult time period of my life, which always attributes to the affection one feels for a song. Seeing Coldplay in concert this summer, on the Viva la Vida tour, was absolutely incredible. For this song, millions of tiny pieces of red and white confetti were poured from the sky (yes, it was a ceiling, but it FELT like the sky) onto the adoring fans. It was AMAZING! One of the BEST nights of my life! The sweet and soft Reign of Love at the end is such a nice touch, too.

4. Clocks. This inclusion is rather self-explanatory. How anyone could make a Top 5 list of Coldplay songs and not include Clocks is beyond me. It’s a revolutionary song, and one of their most unique contributions to the music world.

3. The Scientist. Now, my attachment to this song is stronger than perhaps the entire repertoire. I have a vivid memory of listening to it, one that actually turned out to be very significant in my life. I won’t go into all the details here, but give a brief outline. My incredible, amazing, prize of a husband and I started our relationship in that terrible long-distance dating phase. Suffice to say, it was absolutely dreadful. I missed him ALL the time, and was trying my best to be rational and understanding-it was so difficult, when all I wanted to do was profess my love for him. Anyway, I listened to this song (on my Discman!) on the NJ Transit on my way back to the airport after my first visit, and tears were streaming down my face, landing on the crusty floor of the train. “Nobody said it was easy…” Just a few months later, we were together, in the same place, but I’ll never forget the angsty pain of those few months, when Coldplay provided such an outlet for my emotions.

2. Fix You. That’s right, it’s my number 2! This song is one of Coldplay’s finest accomplishments, truly an incredible song that has the ability to make you cry while your heart is swelling so full you think it might burst. Off an album that any non-devoted fan might profess to be mediocre, Fix You is just, well, listen to it!

Really, I have no words. I could have just written “2. Fix You.” and that’s it. That’s how amazing this song is.

1. Yellow. Was this a surprise at all? Despite putting out 4 incredible albums, full of beautiful songs, the very best, the trademark of the band, is found in this song. I am proud to say that I have seen Coldplay on three separate tours, and the experience of seeing Yellow in concert has been breathtaking each time. For my first concert (2003), the entire room went black, only to roar to life with yellow lights as the song began. In Madison Square Garden in 2005, yellow balloons burst towards the audience with a gentle ferocity as the chorus began to swell. At the HP Pavilion in 2008, the lights were more subtle, but the golden beams that swept the venue revealed a trembling mass of true fans, singing every word. One of the best nights of my life. Seriously.

Now, I know this is technically cheating, especially since it’s my first Top 5, but I decided that I HAD to have honorable mentions. This task was just too difficult, and I feel that I won’t do justice to my love for Coldplay if I don’t have a well-rounded sample of what I feel to be the best songs. Thus, I will include my honorable mentions. And it’s my blog. So really, I can do whatever I want.

6. Glass of Water. Yes, this song is from the recently released EP, Prospekt’s March. It is, in one word, AMAZING. If it weren’t for my faithfulness to the original, full albums, this song would have made my top 5.

7. Warning Sign. Some of the most beautiful lyrics, from all the albums. I feel that it speaks to the regret of having not pursued something or someone that you know you should have. “You were an island, and I passed you by…you were an island to discover…”

8. Viva la Vida. Truly a unique and incredible song. I am glad that Coldplay collaborated with Brian Eno. Plus, the iTunes ads were awesome!

9. Strawberry Swing. I was surprised they actually played this song during the 2008 tour, and pleasantly so. It is truly a sweet, precious ballad.

10. Violet Hill. Yes, there is a trend here. Though I have to reiterate my intense appreciation of Coldplay and ALL their music, in my mind, their most recent offering is their best. From start to finish.

Looking forward to next Tuesday!

**By the way, Gwynyth Paltrow is CRAZY, yes, CRAZY, if she selfishly decides to leave this behind!